Biblical Readings – A Challenge Like None Other
On opposite sides of two mountains that left a valley in between, two armies were confronting: the Philistine and the Israelite. The Israeli soldiers have been terrified for forty days, bearing the constant insults from Goliath, the champion of the Philistines, who defies with loud voices the Israelites in these words: “Choose you a man for you, and let him come down to me. Give me a man, that we may fight together. I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together. And when Saul and all Israel heard those words of the Philistine, they were dismayed, and greatly afraid” (1 Samuel 17:1-4, 8, 10-11, 16).
In ancient times, and until quite late in history, it was often this kind of fights where the champion of one side challenged the champion of the opponent side either in representation of all of his army, either to meet the demands of personal value. As we have read in the chosen verses, it was considered conqueror the side of the victorious warrior and the losers had to submit without more deaths.(Famous in Roman history is the duel between the Horatii brothers and the Curiatii brothers from the town of Alba). But who defies Saul’s army is not a common soldier: is a fierce and terrible giant whose mere presence and heavily armed as he was, seemed invincible. King Saul of Israel himself had his spirit weakened (1 Samuel 17:11).
But Jehovah would do another demonstration of his power again.
Meanwhile this happened, a young man recently anointed to be the new king of Israel went to visit his brothers in the camp of Saul; when he heard Goliath’s challenge, he asks: “What shall be done to the man that killeth this Philistine, and taketh away the reproach from Israel? for who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (1 Samuel 17:26).
David, understands that Goliath represents both the Philistines and their gods and pagan culture and rises within him the desire to become the champion of Jehovah and at the same time to represent the people of Israel. But King Saul advises him: “Thou art not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him: for thou art but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth.” (1 Samuel 17:33). Saul sees the young man only as an inexperienced and simple shepherd unable to cope in combat, even more against Goliath, but David insists: “Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God” (1 Samuel 17:36).
While Saul sees only the strength of enemy weapons and trembles while Goliath boasts the power of his strength, David sees in Goliath an offender of his God, Jehovah, and trusts that He will punish whom defame his name and his people.
Faced on the battlefield, the Philistine said unto David: “Am I a dog, that thou comest to me with staves? And the Philistine cursed David by his gods.” (1 Samuel 17:43) Then David said to the Philistine: “Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied” (1 Samuel 17:45).
David’s faith is fortified, he recognizes that Jehovah has saved him from many dangers, and especially that He aided him when he was saving a sheep from a bear and another one from a lion, he is now convinced that Jehovah will intervene against the Philistine (1 Samuel 17:34-37). Saul armed David with his own weapons, helmet of steel upon his head and a coat of mail, but David put them off him and choosing five smooth stones, comes out to meet Goliath with his sling in his hand (1 Samuel 17:38-40).
The challenge seems impossible to be surpassed by David because of the physical disparity between the two fighters. 1 Samuel 17:4-7 indicates that Goliath of Gath was six cubits and a span in height, just over three meters. His copper chainmail weighed about 60 kilograms, the wooden shaft of his spear was equal in thickness to several of the Israelites, and the iron blade weighed about seven kilograms. It is even possible that the total weight of Goliath’s armor weighed more than David himself, but the young man trusts in the strength that comes from God to the righteous and does not get intimidated by the words of the giant. (1 Samuel 17:43-46).
There is hardly anyone who ignores the end of this challenge. But let us go to the word of 1 Samuel 17:49-51: “And David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone, and slang it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead, that the stone sunk into his forehead; and he fell upon his face to the earth. So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and smote the Philistine, and slew him; but there was no sword in the hand of David. Therefore David ran, and stood upon the Philistine, and took his sword, and drew it out of the sheath thereof, and slew him, and cut off his head therewith. And when the Philistines saw their champion was dead, they fled.”
What is the lesson for us in this episode of the Old Testament?
The first one is faith. Faith in what?. Faith in the power of God, faith in that He keeps his promises of caring for the righteous, faith in that if we are worthy, God will be with us at all times, faith in that we must follow God rather than men (Acts 5:29). Faith in that we must trust in our abilities and put them to the service of God and of the neighbor, for we owe them to God.
A. & A.